Angry villagers paralysed the National Highway 17 at Balli demanding suspension of a police inspector, on Thursday. (Ganadeep Sheldekar)
MARGAO: The atmosphere at Balli remained tense throughout the day on Thursday as hundreds of villagers resorted to a rasta roko,
paralysing the normal flow of traffic on the National Highway 17 till late evening after they learnt about the suicide of Gajanan Phaldesai (26), one of the accused in the May 25 Balli killings. Gajanan was found hanging from a tree behind the Cuncolim police station on Thursday.
The villagers protested demanding suspension of the Crime Branch PI Ms Sunita Sawant, who investigated the Balli violence case.
They alleged that the PI’s moves threatened Gajanan, which compelled him to commit suicide. The villagers demanded a ‘proper inquiry’ into the suicide case. However, no violent incident was reported.
Fourteen persons including Gajanan Phaldesai have been chargesheeted in the Balli violence case for murder and rioting, while Prashant Phaldesai has been shown as an absconder. Two tribal youths - Dilip Velip of Morpila and Manguesh Gaonkar from Canacona were burnt alive in a cashew factory on May 25 allegedly by an irate mob of locals from Balli, following the violence over tribals’ demand for implementing reservation in government jobs in the state among others.
The Superintendent of Police, South, Mr Vaman Tari, DySP Mr Umesh Gaonkar, top police officials and the sub-divisional magistrate, Mr Johnson Fernandes tried to pacify the vociferous locals. The agitating villagers later handed over a memorandum to the SDM, Mr Fernandes and urged him to conduct an inquiry into the suicide case at the earliest and then cleared the road after his assurance.
However, late in the night, some 30 women agitated again by blocking the road at Balli junction. They later cleared the road after an assurance from the South Goa Collector, Mr Sandeep Jacques. Mr Jacques has scheduled a special meeting with the locals at 11 am on Friday to discuss the issue.
Earlier, trouble broke out when Gajanan’s body was noticed hanging from a tree by the police in the morning. The locals rushed at the site and did not allow the police to conduct the site panchanama till the afternoon.
More locals gathered and later demanded that the SDM convey the message to the Home department and the Chief Minister by 4.30 pm failing which they said would agitate and block the road to draw the attention of the government. Around 200 locals came down the road and blocked the traffic and that forced the police to bring in the reserve police force at the site.
“There were apprehensions among the locals that the deceased Gajanan Phaldesai committed suicide after observing the chargesheet filed against him in the Balli violence case. Few locals also alleged that PI Sawant threatened him and perhaps that compelled him to take the extreme step. They have given me a memorandum in this regard and I have assured them to conduct an inquiry into the case,” said the SDM, Mr Fernandes.